From the 1850s a number of suburban housing estates of elegant villas were built around Weston-super-Mare for middle class people looking for peace and privacy away from the bustle of the seafront and the town centre, for example The Shrubbery, The Grove, Montpelier and Ellenborough Park. Their roads were private and they were sometimes protected by gatekeepers’ lodges. The villas all had servants’ quarters and private gardens. Some of the estates, including The Shrubbery, also had communal gardens for the sole use of the residents. However there were no shops or public houses. Goods were delivered to the houses from the shops in the town centre by donkey or horse.
Richard Parsley and William Cox became the owners of the land on which the Shrubbery Estate now stands in 1815 when the area was enclosed by Act of Parliament. Parsley and Cox subsequently quarrelled and in the 1830s Cox let or sold his half of the land to a formidable lady called Sophia Rooke, who built mansion on it, which she called Villa Rosa. The house was Italian in style with a tower and it was built in pink limestone, hence its name. It was surrounded by large grounds, which at one time contained a private zoo.
In the 1850s the villas of the Shrubbery Estate were built on part of the grounds of Villa Rosa. An ornamental footbridge was constructed over the access road to the Shrubbery Estate to reconnect the remaining grounds with the house. This bridge is still in existence today. Most of the villas were built of local limestone quarried from the Town Quarry nearby. Bath Stone was used around the doors and windows and for decorative ornamentation.
The Shrubbery Estate and Villa Rosa had their own well and water tower, which was disguised as an octagonal mock castle with battlements, arrow slit windows and gargoyles. This building has been converted into a house more recently.
Villa Rosa was demolished in the early 1970s and replaced with two blocks of flats.